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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Slice Of Life > Comedy > Crime > Legal > Court > Wealth > Melodrama > Literature > Fantasy > WWI > Biopi > King Of Staten Island (*)/Reversal Of Fortune (1990**)/The Secret: Dare To Dream (2020/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Secret Garden (*both 2020/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/Sergeant York (1941/**both Warner Archive B

King Of Staten Island (*)/Reversal Of Fortune (1990**)/The Secret: Dare To Dream (2020/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Secret Garden (*both 2020/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)/Sergeant York (1941/**both Warner Archive Blu-rays)

Picture: B+ & B-/B-/B- & C+/B- & C/B Sound: B+ & B-/B-/B- & C+/B- & C+/C+ Extras: B/C+/C-/C/B Films: B/C+/C-/C/B-

PLEASE NOTE: The Reversal Of Fortune and Sergeant York Blu-rays are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Here are some dramas that have either a sense of comedy or try to go the feel-good route or both, but it does not mean they succeed at either...

We start with the best of the group here. Writer/Director Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Trainwreck, 40-Year-Old Virgin and many others) returns with The King of Staten Island (2020), which stars Pete Davidson (TV's Saturday Night Live). If you can get past the sometimes annoying character that Davidson plays here, then you're likely to find a touching (if not too long) film here.

The film follows the misadventures of a lost mid twenty-something stoner (Davidson), whose struggling to find a purpose in life. His successful sister is off to college and his late father was a fire fighter to whom he lost at a young age. Since then he has been leaning on his mother (Marisa Tomei) for financial and moral support, but he still ends up constantly disappointing her. An amateur tattooist, Davidson ends up tattooing a young kid whose father (also a Firefighter) confronts his mother in an uproar. The unlikely scenario happens and the two hook up and start a relationship together. Not thrilled about getting kicked out of his mother's house and being self dependent (no thanks to some deadbeat friends either), Davidson eventually comes full circle and finds his purpose in life by stepping into the job role of his late father and becomes a Fire Fighter.

The film also stars Bel Powley, Ricky Velez, Lou Wilson, Moises Arias, Pamela Aldon, and Steve Buscemi.

The film is nicely shot and has mostly naturalistic tones with nothing too stylistic, akin to other Apatow films. The soundtrack is full of great tunes and fits into the film quite well.

Special Features are vast and include (per the press release):

Audio Commentary by director Judd Apatow and actor/co-writer Pete Davidson

Alternated Endings

Deleted Scenes

Gag Reel


THE KID FROM STATEN ISLAND - Pete Davidson and Judd Apatow sit down for a discussion about the movie, their experiences working together, and what it meant to film a movie inspired by Pete's life. Also hear from Pete's family, friends, and cast members who shed more light on the kid from Staten Island.

JUDD APATOW'S PRODUCTION DIARIES - Director Judd Apatow speaks to camera, giving the daily "scoop" on set and discussing the scenes at hand.

YOU'RE NOT MY DAD: WORKING WITH BILL BURR - Judd Apatow discusses how Bill Burr was perfect for the role of "Ray Bishop" while Bill discusses his favorite moments acting alongside Pete Davidson and the meaningful relationship that their characters form.

MARGIE KNOWS BEST: WORKING WITH MARISA TOMEI - Judd Apatow describes the honor he had of working with Marisa Tomei who plays Pete Davidson's fictional mom "Margie." Pete, his mom Amy Davidson, and other cast and crew also describe their amazement at Marisa's ability to nail the role and the joy of having her on set.

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS: WORKING WITH BEL POWLEY - Bel Powley describes her friendship with Pete Davidson, getting the role of "Kelsey" in the film, and what it was like navigating her character's push and pull relationship with "Scott."

SIBLING RIVALRY: WORKING WITH MAUDE APATOW - Maude Apatow discusses what it was like playing "Claire," a character based on Pete Davidson's real sister. Also, Pete and Judd Apatow discuss the real elements of the brother/sister relationship that are reflected in the movie.

BEST FRIENDS: WORKING WITH RICKY, MOISES, & LOU - Ricky Velez, Moises Arias, and Lou Wilson discuss their characters, the chemistry of Scott's "best friend" group, and what it was like working with each other on set.

PAPA: WORKING WITH STEVE BUSCEMI - Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson, and filmmakers reveal why Steve Buscemi was the perfect man for the part of "Papa," and discuss the integral role his character plays in the film.

FRIENDS OF FIREFIGHTERS STAND-UP BENEFIT - Watch the benefit comedy show featuring Bill Burr, Ricky Velez, and Lynne Koplit - that Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson hosted while filming THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND. All proceeds went to the Friends of Firefighters organization.

SCOTT DAVIDSON TRIBUTE - Scott Davidson was a member of the FDNY and was tragically lost on September 11th, 2001. Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson and his family, plus former friends and co-workers of Scott, share stories in honor of the man they knew.


WHO IS PETE DAVIDSON? - Pete Davidson's family, friends, and the filmmakers discuss their hopes of what will come from the release of The King of Staten Island, while Pete and Judd share why it was so important to Pete to make this film.

THE FIREHOUSE - Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson discuss what it was like shooting scenes in a real firehouse and the responsibility they felt to capture the environment authentically.

PETE'S CASTING RECS - Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson discuss how Pete's decision to cast a large group of his friends was beneficial to achieving the goal of the movie. Plus, Pete's friends discuss their relationships with Pete and their experiences working on the film.

PETE'S 'POPPY' (GRANDPA) - Judd Apatow shares his experiences directing Pete Davidson's grandfather in his acting debut.


Barbet Schroder's Reversal Of Fortune (1990) was always an odd film, from a director whose strength is documentaries and not feature films (Single White Female, Before & After, his Kiss Of Death remake, and even Barfly never did totally work either, though Murder By Numbers had its moments) explores whether the rich and wealthy Claus von Bulow (Jeremy Irons, who won the Best Actor Oscar for this role) killed his wife Sonny (Glenn Close) in their Newport, Rhode Island estate in the 1980s.

Based on the book by the once more credible Alan Dershowitz (played well as his younger self here by Ron Silver) looks at the case that he had to defend Claus in court over. This is enough of a courtroom drama that it fits the cycle that began with the Al Pacino film and justice for all... (reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) yet is also trying to be a character study and crime examination at the same time. The makers just try to juggle too much.

The first striking thing is the opening credits of all the uber-expensive mansions in Newport, one of the greatest and most expansive areas to live that has ever existed. Then the film is narrated by Close as Sonny, who is dead!

The film carries this slight dark humor to the end and is from a time when tabloid media was still separate enough from honest journalism that there was no confusion, but all suspected he was the killer and the lesser media played this up for profits and ratings. No matter what you think of the film, a mixed bag for me then and now, Sonny was murdered and the film stays a little ambiguous about some things in a way that backfires. Oliver Stone co-produced.

Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by Director Schroeder and Screenwriter Nicholas Kazan and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Andy Tennant's The Secret: Dare To Dream (2020) is yet another one of the usually unidentified cycle of faith films not-so-cleverly-disguised as melodramas, sometimes with a very, shocking, dramatic event included, to propagate the viewer into submitting to its 'reasonable' world which is always slanted and condescending instead. Many of these get 'endorsed' the the Dove Foundation, but you will find no peace in the obnoxious formula of it all.

In this one, with a real life hurricane in the background, Katie Holmes (not the best return to form for her) is in a relationship with a man (played by the underrated Jerry O'Connell) and raising three children. Of course, things get worse and she finds another (read safer) man in Bray (Josh Lucas) and will she leave one for the other? In these films, the overly safer the better, as if O'Connell (on and off screen) is such a dangerous subversive.

Based on Rhonda Byrne's allegedly best-selling novel, I will not be a jerk and reveal anything else, but I will make it no secret that everyone here looks bored and tired, that it is the nadir of pretty much everyone involved and Tennant is a TV director who got luck to make a few feature films, none of which were particularly good (Fools Rush In, Fool's Gold, Sweet Home Alabama, Anna and the King, Ever After, Hitch) that are all very unremarkable and rarely make money.

Also a producer, he is a survivor of the business and it is no surprise he lands up doing a project like this that is mostly a straight-to-video affair (this played in a theater?) and that it is really bad. Celia Weston also shows up, but nothing can help this dud.

Extras include Digital Copy and a brief Making Of featurette.

Marc Munden's The Secret Garden (2020) is a new version of the classic, even beloved Frances Hodgson Burnett novel set in 1947. Dixie Egerickx is the new young lady finding another world of fantasy, et al, but unlike the beloved version from a mere few decades ago, this one is surprisingly unimaginative and dull despite supporting work from Colin Firth and Julie Walters

Of course, this time, it is shot digitally and they can do CGI effects, but it just unnecessary denatures a story about a garden and rings visually fake more often than it should. This also made it feel like a watered-down version of Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth (reviewed on 4K disc elsewhere on this site) and outside of that, without comparison to any other book or film, there is just no sense of energy, joy or wonder here.

Instead, it plays like a package deal with little energy or enthusiasm, flat and dull, not inspiring repeat viewing or inspiring anyone to read the book. Perhaps I am not the audience for this one, but that is not an excuse for what does not work... most of it. See it if you only really, really are interested.

Extras include three featurette clips (Characters, Concept To Reality, Page To Screen) and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Finally, we have the Howard Hawks' hit Sergeant York (1941) with Gary Cooper in his Best Actor Oscar winning role as the title man, who was a pacifist and conscientious objector who landed up still helping his fellow soldiers, his country and a big WWI win for the Allies in a film that was more timely than expected (the U.S. entry into WWI was about to happen and the Brothers Warner were the only ones dealing with the dark clouds building over Europe versus the other studio heads who were ignoring it for reasons too complex to get into here) and the film joins Casablanca as a key year for the studio.

Yes, it can be corny, formulaic, have the trapping biopics usually have and be a little heavy on the religion and melodrama (Max Steiner did the music only a few years after Gone With The Wind) and the nobility theme might be a bit much, but the film has energy and is a time capsule of the time as things were happening. Cooper is good here, as is supporting cast, including Joan Leslie, Walter Brennan and George Tobias) and the film is a bit long at 134 minutes, but enough of it works to give it a look. Just have some energy on your own to get through it and some will compare it to a recent Mel Gibson film that had a similar hero.

Extras include yet another excellent, feature length audio commentary track by film scholar Jeanine Basinger, Making Of featurette Sergeant York: Of God and Country, classic black and white Porky Pig cartoon Porky's Preview (restored in HD and the live-action short Lions For Sale in the NaturalColor process and looking good.

Now for playback performance. The King of Staten Island is presented in 1080p on Blu-ray disc with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and an MPEG-4 AVC Codec with audio mixes in English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdown, both at 48kHz, 24-bit, for older systems) lossless sound. There is also a standard definition DVD with an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital audio mix that looks fine for the format but is way more compressed than the HD version. There's also a digital copy.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Fortune looks fairly good, but it is from an older HD master and has a lack of detail and color that can be limited. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix was an older Dolby System analog A-type noise reduction theatrical release, so you can decode it with Pro Logic (or the like) and get some mono surrounds, but this is dialogue-based with some music at best and the fidelity shows its age.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Dream is an HD shoot that is dull and not very inspiring, also accompanied by some blur and lack of color. The anamorphically enhanced DVD is even softer, less colorful and harder to watch, along with its weak, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The Blu-ray has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix, but its not much of an improvement and the music is unusually poor.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Garden is also a recent HD shoot, tries to be dark, but instead, shows the limits of its HD cameras and is no match for how good the older version of the film looked, while the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix (apparently a mixdown from a 12-track soundmaster) can sound off at times form perhaps ill-advised choices in the mixdown, more apparent on the DVD's lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Its anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is the weakest of all the discs on this list.

Lastly, the 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on York can show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film looking cleaner, crisper and moire detailed than any other time I have seen the film or in any clips or versions thereof. Warner Archive has done a great job of saving and preserving yet another key catalog title. The original theatrical monophonic sound is here in a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix that sounds good for its age, but it still shows its age and is sonically limited.

To order either of the Warner Archive Blu-rays, Reversal Of Fortune or Sergeant York, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Island)



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